An illustrator's rendition of the Pegasus project

Source: Meydan TV

Caption: An illustrator's rendition of the Pegasus project

Friday Wrap-up: The Pegasus project and SOCAR dismissals

The week of 19-23 July saw the revelations about Pegasus spyware, the dismissal of four SOCAR vice-presidents, a report adaptive clothing project for people with disabilities, and an analysis of fines for not wearing masks in Azerbaijan.

Life in Azerbaijan’s Digital Autocracy: ‘They Want to be in Control of Everything’

This week we published an article by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which investigates the Pegasus project in-depth and illustrates how Azerbaijani journalists became victims of the project’s cyber- surveillance.

For the first time, forensic evidence shows that powerful Israeli spyware from notorious cyber-surveillance company NSO Group, was used against Azerbaijani journalists. More than 200 names appeared on a leaked list of suspected targets.

Pegasus is a sophisticated piece of spyware with frightening capabilities. It can record phone calls and read text messages, access photographs and passwords, track GPS data, and secretly make audio and video recordings. Without the tiniest signal to indicate that anything is amiss, Pegasus can transmit all of this to its secret operators. The tool was developed by NSO Group, an Israeli cyber-surveillance company, which appears to have supplied it to Azerbaijan, one of the most autocratic governments in the world.

OCCRP editors talked to Khadija Ismayilova, Azerbaijan’s most renowned investigative journalist and whose mobile phone had been infected by Pegasus for more than two years.

You can read Ismayilova’s story and rest of the article here.

Four SOCAR vice presidents have been dismissed

This week on Tuesday we published an article detailing President Ilham Aliyev’s dismissal of four vice-presidents of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR).

The decree, which was signed on 19 July, dismissed Davud Mammadov, vice president for processing, Tofig Gahramanov, vice president for strategic development, Bahram Huseynov and Mikayil Ismayilov, vice presidents for geology and geophysics.

SOCAR was established in 1992 by the merger of Azerbaijan’s two state-owned oil companies Azerineft State Concern and the Azernefkimya Production Association. The president of the company is Rovnag Abdulleyev, about whom we published a biography piece a few years ago.

Prior to the 19 July order, the company had twelve vice presidents.

Style and comfort in one: Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities

The first adaptive clothing brand in Azerbaijan, Kekalove Adaptive Fashion, is a social business project which creates comfortable and stylish clothes for people with various kinds of disabilities, while taking into account their special needs. The 20-year-old founder of the company, Mahammad Kekalov, says that he knew that there was a need for adaptive clothing in Azerbaijan based on his own family experience.

The project’s goal is to produce stylish clothes that are also comfortable.

The article, which we published this week, contains interviews with disabled persons and their experiences with Kekalove Adaptive Fashion.

"A mask fine is 15 percent of an average salary"

Another article from of this week covered the fine for not wearing masks in Azerbaijan, which is approximates to about 15 percent of an average salary in the country.

In Azerbaijan, individuals are fined 200 to 400 AZN and officials 3,000 to 4,000 AZN for violations related to coronavirus regulations. In some cases, persons can even be put in administrative detention for up to one month.

Compared to 2019, the number of misdemeanors has risen by almost 17 percent.

Economist Farid Mehralizadeh believes that it is important to consider the average salary of people when evaluating the fines a government imposes due to coronavirus infractions. According to the economist, the government could waive the fines without creating any problems for the economy.

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